The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 27, 2013

World War II veteran's grave robbed of flag

By Karen Middleton

— Common decency should inform anyone not to steal from the final resting place of the dead. But when the grave is that of a World War II veteran, who sacrificed so we might all live in freedom, the thievery is especially troubling.

Louise Griffin said someone has on three separate occasions stolen the American flag from a flagpole at her husband’s grave in Roselawn Cemetery. She said she has heard of other flag thefts and hopes that by publicizing her thefts others might come forward.

She said the latest theft occurred in late July, just three weeks after the flag was mounted on the permanent pole at her husband’s gravesite.

Cornelius D. Griffin died Nov. 9, 2008. He was a U.S. Navy veteran with service in World War II.

“A couple of weeks ago I noticed that a lot of other people were putting up new flags because of Veterans Day,” said Griffin. “But I didn’t dare, because I thought it would be stolen.”

Griffin said she purchases expensive, well-constructed flags with bindings to keep them from fraying. She said her flag was not worn or damaged, so there was no reason to remove it for any legitimate reason.

“They threw the cord down and it was lying in a pile beside the pole,” she said.

Griffin said she had talked to Athens Police. “They said they would try to keep an eye on it,” she said.

Whitney Christopher, cemetery coordinator under Ben Wiley of Athens Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries, said she has not had any complaints of flag thefts at any of the city cemeteries.

“We would certainly like to know if this is happening,” said Christopher. “If this happens again she should call us.” That number is 256-233-8743.

Capt. Trevor Harris of the Athens Police Department said they do not often receive complaints of thefts from cemeteries. He said there were reports of historic relics missing from one cemetery several years ago, but no complaints of flag thefts.